Postmodern Space, Postcolonial Resistance, 99--Foucault: Power & Subject   -- Postmodernism -- Literary Criticism -- IACD
Foucault, Michel. T
"Text/Context of Other Space."
Diacritics 16.1 (1986): 22-27.
Summarized by Jerry Shih-chieh Liang
 
 I. Overview: concepts of space 
II. Space as the relations of sites 
III. Utopia and Heterotopia 
IV. Principles of Heterotopology 
V. The last trait of heterotopias
VI. The significance of a boat 
  I. Overview: concepts of space 1. As the 19th century is possessed by history, we may say we are in the epoch of space and epoch of simultaneity. Some certain ideological conflicts come between the advocates the concept of time and the ones of concept of space. Structuralism is the effort to establish, between elements that could have been connected on a temporal axis, an ensemble of relations that makes them appear as juxtaposed, opposed to and implicated with each other, and as a sort of configuration. Actually structuralism does not entail the denial of time; it does involve a certain manner of dealing with what we call time and what we call history.

2. Medieval space--space of emplacement: Complete hierarchy, opposition, and intersections of places constitute the stability and natural ground of Medieval space. (e.g. sacred/ profane, protected/ exposed, urban/ rural, supercelestial/ celestial/ terrestrial spaces)

3. With the constitution of an infinitely open space, the space of Middle Ages turned out to be dissolved. A thing's place was no longer anything but s point in its movement. Starting with Galileo and the 17th century, extension was substituted for localization.

4. Today the site has substituted for extension. The site is defined by relations of proximity between points and elements; formally, we can describe these relations as series, trees, or grids. (e.g. storage of data, immediate result of calculation, demography, etc.)

5. "In any case I believe that the anxiety of our era has to do with space, no doubt a great deal more than with time. Time probably appears to us only as one of the various distributive operations that are possible the elements that are spread out in space" (23).

II. Space as the relations of sites 1. Now our life is still governed by a certain number of oppositions that remain inviolable. These are oppositions that we regard as simple givens, and all these are still nurtured by some hidden presence of the sacred. (e.g. private/ public, leisure/ work, family/ social, spaces, etc.).

2. "The space in which we live, which draws us out of ourselves, in which the erosion of our lives, our time and our history occurs, the space that claws and knaws at us, is also, in itself, a heterogeneous space. In other words, we do not live in a kind of void, inside of which we could place individuals and things. We do not live inside a void that could be colored with diverse shades of light, we live inside a set of relations that delineates sites which are irreducible to one another and absolutely not superimposable on one another" (23).

3. One might attempt to describe these different sites by looking for the set of relations by which a given site can be defined. (e.g. set of relations--transportation, street, trains; cluster of relations--cafe, cinema, beach; network of relations--house, bedroom, bed) (24)

III. Utopia and Heterotopia 1. Utopia: "Utopias are sites with no real place. They are sites that have a general relation of direct or inverted analogy with the real space of Society. They present society itself in a perfected form, or else society turned upside down" (24).

2. Heterotopia: Heterotopias are formed in the very founding of society. They are real places. They are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted.

3. Heterotopia as a Mirror

a. Mirror is a utopia. In the mirror, I see myself over there in the unreal space. A sort of shadow gives me the visibility to see myself, to see myself there where I am absent: such is the utopia of the mirror.

b. But it is also a heterotopia in so far as the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a sort of counteraction on the position I occupy. >From the mirror, I find the absence of where I am because I see myself over there.

c. Starting from the gaze directed toward me, from the ground of this virtual space in the mirror, I come back toward myself. I begin again to direct my eyes toward myself and to reconstitute myself there where I am.

d. "The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: it makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once absolute real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolute unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this virtual point which is over there" (24).
 

 IV. Principles of Heterotopology First principle: There is probably not a single culture in the world that fails to constitute heterotopias. Heterotopias obviously take quite varied forms, and perhaps no one absolutely universal form of heterotopia would be found. 2 main categories of them (24):

1. Crisis heterotopias: In so-called primitive society, there are privileged or forbidden places, reserved for individuals who are, in relation to society and to the environment in which they live, in a state of crisis: adolescents, menstruating women, pregnant women, the elderly (24). These heterotopias exist nowhere, without geographical markers.

2. Heterotopias of deviation: Heterotopias of crisis are disappearing today and are replaced. The individuals whose behavior is deviant in relation to the requires mean or norm are placed in these heterotopias of deviation. (e.g. psychiatric hospitals, prisons, retirement homes) (25).

Second principle: A society, as its history unfolds, can make an existing heterotopia function in a very different fashion; for each heterotopia has a precise and determined function within a society and the same heterotopia can according to the synchrony of the culture in which it occurs, have one function or another (25). (e.g. ceremony: heart to border; sacred to illness) 

Third principle: The heterotopia is capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible (25). (e.g. theater, cinema, and garden) 

Fourth principle: Heterotopias are most often linked to slices in time--which is to say that they open into what might be termed, for the sake of symmetry, heterochronies (26).

1. Absolute break of time: Heterotopia begins to function at full capacity when men arrive a sort of absolute break with their traditional time. e.g. death.

2. Indefinite accumulation of time: Museums and libraries have become heterotopias in which time never stops building up topping its own summit. It is the idea of constituting a place of all times that is itself outside of time and inaccessible to its ravages, and is the project of organizing in this way a sort of perpetual and indefinite accumulation of time in an immobile place. 

Fifth principle: Heterotopias always presuppose a system of opening and closing that both isolates them and makes them penetrable. In general, the heterotopic site is not freely accessible like a public place. Either the entry is compulsory, or else the individual has to submit to ties and purification, or have some certain permission.(e.g. barrack and prison). Some heterotopias seem to be pure and simple openings, but that general hide curious exclusions. (e.g. house family) 

V. The last trait of heterotopias: They have a function in relation to all the space that remains. This function unfolds 2 extreme poles (27).

1. Their role is to create a space of illusion that exposes every real space, all the sites inside of which human life is partitioned, as still more illusory. (e.g. brothel)

2. Their role is to create a space that is other, another real space, as perfect, as meticulous, as well arranged as ours is messy, ill constructed, and jumbled. (e.g. colony, Puritan society of New England, Jesuits of Paraguay)

VI. The significance of a boat The boat is a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea. The ship is the heterotopia par excellence.